Keidel: After a blowout and a blow-up, Yankees back where they belong


We tried to tell you.

Despite their stumbling end to the season, the Yankees are mature and self-motivated in ways that don't appear on a box score. When that playoff bell rings, these Bombers come to eat. In this case, it was a thrilling ride of leads, long balls, and blown saves - and that's after two botched rain delays - which ended with the Yankees winning Game 2 of the Wild Card Series over the Cleveland Indians, 10-9.

After the rain, and MLB's inexplicable way of handling it to start the game - which then led to the longest nine-inning game in history, at 4 hours and 50 minutes - the Yankees and Indians slugged it out like old heavyweights from the '70s. Both starters stunk, both bullpens blew leads, and there were line drives and long homers all over Progressive Field. But the Yankees just were a little better than the Indians at nearly everything, and squeaked out of Cleveland with a 2-0 sweep and a ticket punched to the ALDS.

If you watched the game or listened on WFAN, you know most stats behind the slugfest. Sweeny Murti, the nicest man in this (or any) industry, incapable of speaking poorly of anyone, couldn't even defend the 76 minutes of inexplicable delays - which weren't added to the historic 4:50 it took to play the actual game - before the end of the first inning. But in the end, both teams couldn't pitch because they couldn't control their pitches, not the weather.

The Yankees scored 22 runs in their first two playoff games, the most in MLB history. The other three teams to score at least 20 runs in their first 18 postseason innings - the 1970 Orioles, 1969 Mets, and 1960 Yankees - went on to play in or win the World Series. By staggering contrast, the first two teams A-Rod and Matt Vasgersian doted on Wednesday, the Reds and Braves, just played the first playoff game ever with no runs scored entering the 12th inning, and the Reds also became the first team in MLB history to smack 11 hits in a playoff game without scoring a run.

To give you a greater sense of the oddities devouring this game, Gio Urshela became the first Yankees third baseman to blast a grand slam in a playoff game. It’s a long list of luminaries such as A-Rod, Graig Nettles, Clete Boyer, Red Rolfe, and World Series hero Scott Brosius.

Indians closer Brad Hand, who hadn't blown a single save this season, gagged a 9-8 lead. In fact, Hand gave up zero earned runs in nine August appearances, and pitched to a 0.79 ERA in 11 September games. Over his last 20 regular season games, Brad Hand allowed one earned run in 19 2/3 innings pitched – but two in his last one that bled into October.

Aroldis Chapman coughed the lead back up in the eighth - though he was not charged with the run - but was given another chance to close the game in the ninth. And he did, hurling an impossible-to-hit high heater that was met with a check swing that spun way too far.

For the Yankees, the win was glorious and somewhat ominous. The glory, of course, comes with not getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs. The darker side of this win italicized how shallow the Yankees' rotation really is. We thought they at least had Cole and Tanaka to win the first two games of any series. But the formerly great Tanaka was awful last night, at least for one inning, and if he doesn't turn it around, it means the Yanks have an ace and a prayer, with some amalgam of JA Happ, Jordan Montgomery, and Deivi Garcia to fill out a tattered rotation that is already without Luis Severino and James Paxton.

The Yankees get Tampa Bay next - a team that is not worried about the Yankees, whipping the Bombers eight out of ten games during their moonwalk to the AL East crown. While the Bombers spent over $100 million to get here, the ever-frugal Rays paid a paltry $28 million (or twice Gerrit Cole's salary this season) to arrive at the same spot. Tampa - it's hard to call a club Tampa Bay when there's no such city - is a team that isn't star-crossed by all the Yankees' star players.

But as we wrap up a bizarre series in Cleveland, a bizarre season in general, and a bizarre game that started in September and ended in October, it found the Yankees in the month and place they belong - with a shot at ring No. 28.

Follow Jason Keidel on Twitter: @JasonKeidel

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